This year we did ALL THE LIGHTS. It just sort of happened. We’d already planned a trip to Waddesdon Manor as part of our visit to the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre (Thomas the Tank Engine comes there twice a year), and Kew I booked in the summer when there was a sale on the cost of tickets. When the weather looked good for Boxing Day we decided to book Blenheim, which was doing their first ever Christmas Lights event.
Kew, I thought, would be a fitting end to the festive season. A proper, large-scale farewell to the sparkle before in true English fashion they pack everything away for 2-3 months so we can sit in the dark until Easter comes. (I don’t know why English people do this, but they do. Toughens us up I think.)
I booked a full package and included parking so I wouldn’t have to hunt. What we later found out is that parking is a bit mental, but once you get your head wrapped around the fact that driving in a small gap between two buildings constitutes a road everything pans out nicely. (Plus, OMG I would not want to try to park in the surrounding neighbourhoods in all the madness!) The kiddo, now not a one but two-festive-light-trip veteran, came into this with a plan. And, in his plan, this meant fairground rides.
All the fairground rides.
As Kew is slightly more than an hour from Oxford I booked the earliest start time so that even though we’d get home late we’d get home reasonably. The trail was a little over a mile long and had food and drink stops along the way. Our parking was in the middle of the trail.
Next to the fairground rides.
I realised if we hit the fairground rides before we went out we’d have to hit them again on the way back, thus emptying my wallet. As such I had a devious plan of going on a Pokémon hunt (Kew is good for the Pokémon) and seeing the lights first, before riding the rides. This last for all of 5 seconds, as my child throws his Pokémon balls out with reckless abandon.
Thus, I present my kiddo’s review of Christmas at Kew:
Him, “Not the rides.”
Me, “Is this a Pokéstop?”
Checks phone, notices it is.
Occupied for 2 minutes.
Him, “I am out of Pokéballs. Is this the rides?”
Me, “No, look at the lights!”
Him, “I want to ride the rides.”
Him, “Marshmallows are suitable.”
Me, “Holy cow, kid. These are AMAZING. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill…”
Him, “I’m done. Can we ride the rides now?”
Him, “This is neat.”
Me, “Yes, you see that glass house? It’s huge! Remember we once climbed to the second floor and…”
Him, “Are the rides near here?”
Me, “This is a special installation for the year called The Hive. Isn’t it pretty?”
Him, “Bees are dangerous, Mommy.”
Him, “The garden is on fire.”
Me, “Yes, it’s representing five of the twelve days of Christmas.”
Him, “Is there a fire alarm in case the fire gets out?”
Me, “Well, no. They have people looking after the fire.”
Him, “I want to look after the fire.”
Me, “Maybe when you are older.”
Him, (Pause.) “Can we ride the rides?”
After many, many conversations about how far we were from the rides, how many steps we would need to take before we got to the rides and if the phone would hold out long enough for him to catch another Christmas Pikachu we made it to the rides. I was concerned he would want to ride absolutely everything 300 times over but, as a fairground veteran, he understood how many tokens there were and how many rides that equalled.
He even let me ride two rides with him.
We left happy, content, and with several Christmas Pikachu. As for Christmas at Kew? Go, definitely go. It’s a full-scale production spread over a mile. Tonnes of food and drink. Toast a marshmallow, you won’t regret it. Piles of shopping (if you are into it). And, in kiddo’s view – a very good fairground.
And, as I heard for a mile long walk, the rides are all that matter.